COVID-19 makes preparations for hurricane season even more critical

With first responders and healthcare workers deeply engaged in the COVID-19 response, restrictions on transportation, enterprise operations and personal mobility still in place in many communities, and usage on communications networks up dramatically, this year’s preparations for hurricane season are more important than ever.

“In crisis situations, communication is critical. We have experienced it most recently with COVID-19 when a spike in volume on our network demonstrated the importance of connecting with critical resources, colleagues, friends and family,” said Kyle Malady, Chief Technology Officer for Verizon. “Reliability is in our DNA and we prepare all year long for disasters. The strength, reliability and strong performance of our network has been very evident to our customers during the COVID-19 pandemic and our teams are heading into hurricane season with the same tireless dedication and commitment to reliable communications.”

Verizon is ready:

Verizon has made preparations to ensure the network is ready for storm season.

  • Support for first responders: More public safety professionals rely on Verizon than any other network. During times of crisis, we provide network priority and preemption for first responders at no cost to public safety agencies. This gives first responders access to the network when they need it. Additionally, when disaster strikes, the Verizon Response Team (VRT) is available 24/7 365 days a year to coordinate with first responders to provide essential technologies during a crisis. During storms, the VRT will mobilize charging stations, devices, special equipment, emergency vehicles and more to support local, state and federal agencies across the US.
  • COVID-19 considerations: This year, we have worked to ensure that we have the necessary personal equipment and processes in place for our field teams who may have to enter highly populated areas like shelters or operations centers. We have virtualized many command center functions to make it easier for our engineers working on network repairs and deploying mobile assets to remain socially distanced. We have also arranged for individual portable housing units for mission critical network engineers in the field
  • Redundancy Equals Reliability/Backups to the Backups: We use different strategies including backup generators and HVAC systems and redundant fiber rings for cell sites and switching centers to keep the network running and customers connected when commercial power is lost or water damage occurs
  • Refueling strategy: We pre-arrange fuel deliveries for our generators in case of a storm, with tankers poised and in position to quickly respond to hard-hit areas in the event commercial power is lost
  • Year-round preparation: We run Emergency Operation Center drills throughout the year to ensure our team is ready and equipped to respond to emergencies
  • Support for the community: We have mobile Wireless Emergency Communications Centers, Tactical Command Trailers, and Response Trailers ready to deploy to support first responders and community members with recovery efforts
  • Use of drones: We have surveillance drones on standby to help assess and respond to damage from a storm, and we have drones that can deliver wireless service to a designated area from the sky
  • Satellite assets: We have a fleet of new satellite-equipped portable cell sites and have secured dedicated satellite links for connection. If fiber or microwave is damaged due to sustained winds, storm surge or manual fiber cuts during post-storm recovery work, satellite-enabled portable equipment and dedicated satellite links, along with the fleet of portable generators keep the network running without commercial power
  • Comprehensive fleet management: In the run up to and during a storm, it’s critical for mobile businesses to know where their people, assets and vehicles are. The Verizon Connect fleet management platform provides greater visibility and situational awareness to help move people and assets out of harm’s way and plan a more coordinated return to business once the storm clears

How you can prepare: Do you have a personal communications plan?

The beginning of hurricane season is a great time to ensure you are ready for the season too. In an environment where COVID-19 remains a real concern, we may see more sheltering in place instead of evacuations this year, making communication even more critical.

We encourage you to take these steps to ensure your loved ones are ready to communicate during a storm.

Device preparation:

  • Ensure all battery-powered devices are fully charged before the storm hits. This includes wireless phones and smartphones, laptops, tablets, flashlights and radios
  • Wireless devices can be a key source of information and communication in the event of an emergency, so be sure to keep phones, tablets, laptops, batteries, chargers and other equipment in dry, accessible locations like re-sealable plastic bags, dry bags or waterproof cases
  • In case of evacuation, make sure you know where your chargers are, both wall and vehicle charging cords, and have portable device chargers fully charged and next to your device

Know and back up your info:

  • Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers and email addresses, including police, fire and rescue agencies; power companies; insurance providers; and family, friends and co-workers. Program them into your phone, smartphone, tablet or laptop and also have a hard copy handy, someplace easily accessible
  • Backup your information on Verizon Cloud – Verizon offers backup assistance through the Verizon Cloud to store your phone’s address book and contact information as well as pictures and other content on a secure server 
  • Record video/take photos of your possessions in your residence before severe weather hits

Bookmark resources:

  • Download weather applications and alerts that provide users with a variety of information such as radar images, forecasts and severe storm warnings
  • Program your smartphone to receive emergency alerts. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are free wireless notifications that are delivered to your mobile device by local/national public safety organizations
  • Also in case of evacuation, bookmark your emergency resources on your phone so you can research any special restrictions, limitations or instructions if you need emergency shelter, medical care or other support that may be impacted by COVID-19.

How businesses and government organizations can prepare and stay connected

Businesses and governments know the importance of hurricane preparedness. This year, with so much of the workforce working remotely, contingency planning is even more critical. We offer customers products and services that can help disaster-proof communications and enable business continuity.

It’s also a good time to review readiness plans. Suggested steps for businesses and government organizations include:

  • Make sure you have contact information updated and readily available for all employees
  • Make copies of insurance documents, review insurance coverages and update as appropriate
  • Ensure employees working from home have documented all corporate equipment being used to work from home in case of damage or loss
  • Ensure you have a backup plan to shift work in case work-from-home employees in a storm-impacted area have to evacuate their home or their home loses commercial power

This storm season is predicted to be an active one, and Verizon is crisis-ready and crisis-proven.

**Editor’s Note: To access images and b-roll of past storms, Verizon equipment, recovery efforts and more, please visit Verizon’s Emergency Resource Hub at https://www.verizon.com/about/about/news/media-resources